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Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
15m manuscript saved for nation
The Sherborne Missal opened and being read
The Missal is an important medieval manuscript
The British Library has preserved for the nation a unique 15th century illuminated manuscript worth 15m.

The library has also made a virtual computer version of the Sherborne Missal so visitors can see more than they would if it was displayed under glass.

Bird detail
Each of its 694 pages is decorated with elaborate script
They can "turn the pages" by touching a screen and zoom in on details.

Academics regard the manuscript as one of the most important treasures dating from the late Middle Ages.

It has been valued at 15m and until now has been in private hands.

The manuscript was made for Sherborne Abbey in Dorset at the beginning of the 15th century.

Gothic script

It is believed to have been removed to Europe in the 17th century and resurfaced in France in 1703. Later it was bought by the Duke of Northumberland.

In 1998 the current Duke of Northumberland offered it to the nation in lieu of inheritance tax, providing the British Library could raise the funds for digitisation.

Touch-screen version of the manuscript
Part of the manuscript has been digitised
The text contains the words and music to be used in Catholic church services during the year.

Each of its 694 pages feature elaborate Gothic script with many containing illustrations of wild birds.

The stunning illustrations have generated its reputation as a masterpiece of English art.

The text itself weighs about 20kg.

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See also:

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